A Journey Through Technology

Week 3: How different is your current classroom from the one in which you learned when you were a student?

on February 4, 2017

This week we are looking at how classrooms have changed since we were the students. I went through my K-12 education in the mid-90’s to mid-00’s, so a lot of the things I use in my classroom were also being used when I was the student. To me, it seems like the biggest change over the years for education is in the technology we have available to use in the classroom. When I was in elementary school, my teachers had to use paper grade books, so there was no knowing what grade you had until report cards came out. I saw many visual aids via overhead projector, and we had chalk boards in my classrooms until at least middle school. I know some classrooms in the high school at which I currently teach still have chalkboards, but almost all classrooms now have smart whiteboards and digital projectors connected to the computer. If students want to know their grade, they just log into their student account and they can see all of their classes and the grades they have. But how long as all of this technology been around? It always seems that schools aren’t always quick to start using new technology, so how long does it take for schools to pick it up?

According to Jeff Dunn (2011), interactive whiteboards were first introduced back in 1999. I think the first time I saw and/or used one was in my fourth year of college. I think these whiteboards are a great addition to the classroom, but many teachers are not properly trained in how to use them to the best of their abilities. I can honestly say that I don’t know all the tricks and possible uses for mine, even though I love using it. I use mine mainly to write notes for my students and then save them to share online, and also for showing videos/movies. I would love to learn how to use it in even more ways to help my students learn.

Another change that occurred while I was a student is the use of computers and the internet. I remember playing Oregon Trail on the old Macintosh computers when I was in the 4th and 5th grades. Now students can play games on their smartphones. Purdue University has “A History of Classroom Technology” posted on its website. According to the article, “In 1990, The World Wide Web was given life when a British researcher developed Hyper Text Markup Language, or HTML, and when the National Science Foundation (NSF) removed restrictions on the commercial use of the Internet in 1993, the world exploded into a frenzy of newfound research and communication methods.” (Purdue, 2015) I have no memory of using the internet in elementary school, but I think we used it more in middle school, and definitely in high school and college. I am amazed at quickly people can find information using a Google search compared to having to look things up in an encyclopedia or card catalog.

One of the biggest changes from when I was in school is the way that students are encouraged to learn. When I was in school, the common practice was for teachers to “pour” knowledge into the students. Students relied on their teachers for the bulk of the learning. “For most of the twentieth century our education system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary for learning to occur.” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 321) New educational best practice suggests that teaching is not necessary for learning to occur. Students are now encouraged to develop their own understanding of content, sometimes without direct teacher instruction.

These are definitely not the only changes from my student days, but to me they are the changes that have had the biggest impact on the classroom.


Dunn, J. (2011) The evolution of classroom technology. Available at: http://www.edudemic.com/classroom-technology/ (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

Purdue (2015) The evolution of technology in the classroom. Available at: http://online.purdue.edu/ldt/learning-design-technology/resources/evolution-technology-classroom (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.


9 responses to “Week 3: How different is your current classroom from the one in which you learned when you were a student?

  1. Natalie says:

    Hi Sarah,
    You brought back great memories of playing Oregon Trail in 4th grade! 🙂 It was a special treat to use the computer and play games. I also wonder how long does it take for schools to start using technology and pick it up? From what I’ve seen, it is a combination of teacher resistance and school funding. I’ve seen teachers wanting to use everything they have available as well as classroom computers/iPads collecting dust for 9 months. I’ve also seen technology available but teachers just not knowing how to incorporate it into their teaching.


  2. Jule says:

    How interesting that the first projector was made in 1999! You would think that most classes would have them by now and that most teachers could use them to their full potential. You brought up a point that you are among the group of teachers who don’t know how to use them properly. This seems to be a common issue among teaching/using technology in the classroom. We are expected to teach using new programs/technologies, but teachers don’t even know how to use them themselves. Their is a huge disconnect between teacher-technology-student.. and I strongly believe that we can’t use things such as the smart board until we learn it ourselves. I related to this disconnect with using reading or math programs. I sat my students down in front of them before I used it myself.


    • Sarah K says:


      I think that teachers can sometimes not be the best students when it comes to learning new technology. I know that has been the case for me before. We know we need to use it, but the fear of the unknown makes it hard for us to experiment. I have tried things with students for the first time without doing them myself and it definitely causes a disconnect when we don’t even know how to do it correctly.


  3. Larissa Sivertsen says:

    “One of the biggest changes from when I was in school is the way that students are encouraged to learn. When I was in school, the common practice was for teachers to “pour” knowledge into the students.” This is a common theme I’m seeing posted this week! I couldn’t agree more! We were expected to take notes and memorize our learning rather than being submerged into our own learning path. I’m still a little bitter about being taught this way! Allowing students to discover and gain a deeper understanding is so critical to becoming a life-long learner. I am still relearning things that I apparently “learned” or should I say memorized?


    • Sarah K says:


      I also feel a little bitter about the knowledge-dump method of learning. As I learn about project- and problem-based learning, I wish I could have been exposed to that more in middle school and high school. I can only imagine that other adults would have enjoyed that as well.


  4. unicyclepro says:

    I think one of the disadvantages of seasoned teachers like me is that the majority (don’t know, just conjecturing) do not know how to use technology in the class (not me, of course 🙂 ) Our district has quite a few interactive whiteboards in classrooms, but I also feel there are many teachers that just use it to write notes, show videos, and present slide shows. You can do so much more with them! It takes time, effort, and curiosity. Unfortunately teachers probably feel they need to be shown how to use technology instead of researching themselves on their own time, which, I think, they also feel they shouldn’t have to do this after “school hours”. Our preparation time is not even close to the amount of time to prepare for classes for that day, let alone learn how to use technology in the class effectively. Our IT department is great about having “Tech Tuesdays” every week where they will highlight different aspects of technology use for any district teacher to attend. I don’t know how many teachers take advantage of this, but it is an attempt to increase knowledge about tech use in the class. “Pouring knowledge” is not such a bad thing, is it? How else can we learn from The Discovery Channel, or National Geographic Channel? Those shows are definitely not interactive, but we can learn from them and they have a place in education.


    • Sarah K says:


      I agree that quite a few teachers don’t want to spend any extra time outside of class to learn how to better utilize classroom technology. I will admit that I could learn to better utilize my interactive whiteboard if I spent more time with it. The issue I’m having right now is I don’t know how much longer we will be using these boards, so I don’t know how much time I’m actually willing to invest in it if it will be useless in a few years.

      I also agree that there are times when “pouring knowledge” is useful and even necessary, but I think that too many teachers rely on that as their main method of teaching when there is so much research to support other methods that can help students be more actively engaged in the classroom.


  5. stimey83 says:

    One of the things that I hadn’t thought about that you reminded me of was the thing about grades. I hadn’t thought about how we had little knowledge of our grades and were sometimes surprised by what we had gotten. One giant benefit I see from this new system is the power of the zero. My students can receive instant notifications of missing assignments, and they will quickly turn in missing work when the get notified of a zero. Thanks for reminding me how much more informed students are about there grades these days.


    • Sarah K says:


      I can only imagine how involved I would have been in school if I would have had constant access to my grades! One thing that sometimes bothers me, however, is that even though students and parents have access to grades all the time, they don’t actually take the time to look through them. There still seems to be a few students and parents at the end of each grading period that are very surprised with the grade they have received. I think the online gradebook could be better utilized if more students and parents actually used it.


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